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James Agee Photograph by Walker Evans, 1937. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103100).

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Agee, James Rufus (27 November 1909–16 May 1955), writer, was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son of Hugh James Agee, a construction company employee, and Laura Whitman Tyler. The father’s family were poorly educated mountain farmers, while the mother’s were solidly middle class. Agee was profoundly affected by his father’s death in a car accident in 1916. He idealized his absent father and struggled against his mother and her genteel and (he felt) cold values. “Agee’s mother wanted him to be clean, chaste, and sober,” the photographer ...

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Arnold, Eve (21 April 1912–04 January 2012), photojournalist, was born Eve Cohen in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the seventh of nine children of the Ukrainian Jewish immigrants Vevel (William) Sklarski, a rabbi, and Bosya (Bessie) Laschiner. Although Eve’s parents were poor she received a good basic education. Eve first considered a career as a writer or a dancer, then settled on medicine, but she gave this up to move to New York City. During World War II she got a job at America’s first automated photographic film processing plant in Hoboken, New Jersey, although she knew little about photography then. It was only in 1946 when her then boyfriend gave her a forty-dollar Rolleicord camera that she took up photography as a hobby. The boyfriend did not last long, but her love of photography grew into a highly successful and fulfilling career....

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Ephron, Nora (19 May 1941–26 June 2012), screenwriter, film director, journalist, and humorist, was born on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and grew up in Beverly Hills, California. Her parents, Henry Ephron and the former Phoebe Wolkind, were a successful screenwriting team best known for scripting such light-hearted fare as ...

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Gill, John (17 May 1732–25 August 1785), printer and newspaper publisher, was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, the son of Captain John Gill and Elizabeth Abbot. He served his apprenticeship with Samuel Kneeland, an established Boston printer who also owned the Boston Gazette. Gill married Kneeland’s daughter, Ann Kneeland, in January 1756. It is likely that Gill met ...

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Hedda Hopper Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-97336).

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Hopper, Hedda (02 May 1885–01 February 1966), actress and gossip columnist, was born Elda Furry in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, the daughter of David E. Furry, a butcher, and Margaret Miller. The fifth of nine children, Hopper attended school until the eighth grade, after which she stayed home to help her mother with the household. She had an early driving desire to be on the stage, spurred by seeing ...

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Larsen, Roy Edward (20 April 1899–09 September 1979), publisher, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Robert Larsen, a newspaperman, and Stella Belyea. Larsen was proud to proclaim himself a “first generation American,” for his father and mother had come to this country from Norway and Ireland, respectively. Larsen graduated from the Boston Latin School in 1917 and entered Harvard College. Drafted into the U.S. Army in his freshman year, Larsen served as a second lieutenant in the infantry. After the armistice, he returned to Harvard. Following his graduation in 1921, Larsen went to work for the New York Trust Company....

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Macdonald, Dwight (24 March 1906–19 December 1982), critic and editor, was born in New York City, the son of Dwight Macdonald, an attorney, and Alice Hedges, the daughter of a successful Brooklyn merchant. Though his family was primarily middle class, Macdonald attended Phillips Exeter Academy and Yale University, from which he graduated in 1928 with a B.A. degree. The circumstances of Macdonald’s family were reduced in 1926 when his father died, but the new monthly magazine ...